The Silent Ones

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 30, 2018

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Submitted: September 30, 2018

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The Silent Ones

Jumping over the metal gate, I walk along the makeshift path, following the familiar road to my hidden sanctuary. The first thing my nostrils detect is the aroma of sagebrush in the wind, a vanilla sweet grass, a natural pheromone, alluring and potent. All around me, I observe the various forms of life that dwell in this suburban abyss of natural preservation, a precious refuge for creatures of all characters and colors: Those that crawl, prance, climb, jump, and fly and those wander; like myself. In spite of the destructive and noxious presence of human settlement that continues to threaten the enduring posterity of the tributary woodland, its rightful inhabitants silently cease to surrender against the tide of human adversity, of urban incursion; pollinating and dispersing seeds to be cultivated by the ephemeral progression of the coming seasons.

Directly adjacent to the creek, sitting atop the ascending terrace walls, towering like castles, sit fortresses of cemented concrete, compressed brick, and hammered earth- vanity and idleness- adorned with a contemptuous glare, instinctively opposed to the bodily essence of this hallowed and reserved place.

A few minutes pass and soon enough I become intertwined in the natural setting that dominates the divided ridges of Penitencia Creek. Running away from me, the obscure dirt path, an ascending stairway into oblivion, treads up the ravine and into the portal of the highland, a stage of exposed plain. I climb the grooved steps, grabbing an exposed root for leverage. Pulling myself up to the top, I am now standing on a giant mound of earth raised high above the creek, the canopies, and cul-de-sacs, over the mazes of pavement and asphalt, and looking toward the Western hills- admiring a panoramic view of the city.

I mind to the grassland which spreads all around me stretching from here to the hillsides, from here to the steep canyons, from here to Diablo Ridge and Eagle Rock- an area almost the size of Noble Park and, excluding the clustered civilians, untouched. Among the rim of the canyon lie an array of trees, shrubs and perennials: live oak, sycamore, big leaf maple, white alder, , and black sage – natives to the northern slope of the canyon where the climate is dry and warm. The specifically Aesculus- also known as “conkers” to those of British and Irish descent, is a perennial native to the northern California coastland. In blooming season, white fluorescent flowers shoot out in panicles, and stout shoots of sticky buds, nursing a cluster of tiny green fruit-sacks.  The flowers are shaped like trumpets adorned with delicate white petals, and protruding with specks of orange and yellow. However, the prized possession of the canyon is the California Fuchsia- a flower which attracts thirsty hummingbirds and butterflies with its profusion of deep scarlet petals and sweet nectar. And known by many other names, such Epilobium, Hummingbird Flower, and Fire-Chalize.

Into the middle of the meadow, Mother Nature’s garden, Pimentelli’s pasture, a golden triumphant ruin. This is my home, a sanctuary, a refuge, a place to call mine; a quiet soul untamed and obscure like my own. A withered oak tree trunk sits on the south end of the grassland. The bark is cracked and frigid, yet there is a detection of hope: a myriad stream of ants scurry anxiously, climbing from the base of the root into a hollowed out cavern, taking shelter from the harsh sun.  On the far northern corner, a red-tailed hawk circles above the scorched flatland of golden stalks and bristles, screeching and hovering until it comes to perch on the branch of a neighboring big leaf maple, preparing to capture its prey; a field mouse perhaps. Mountain lions, pumas, and bobcats are also prevalent here in the Eastern and occasionally seen by pedestrians hiking in the vicinity of Alum Rock Park. Other critters include the grey fox, wild hare, raccoons, and black-tailed deer which are seen more commonly- even in my own backyard, less than a mile from here.  

The natives are not the only ones that settle on this land. Ornamental species, noxious and invasive plants have bred and adapted over time due to the introduction of residential landscaping, and cross-pollination. I spot the violet in the corner, otherwise known as loggerheads to the Englishmen, is a noxious, and invasive knapweed, armed with a taproot that recklessly rises upward in thickets of spines and stickers, which cling to the cuffs of my jeans like tiny spurs,  presenting no other purpose but ornamentation. These false flowers are abundant in number and cease to retire, eager to adapt with the evolving landscape, while displacing the native flora. Another plant, periwinkle Vinca which the Indians named - meaning always flowering- is an invasive and shallow plant that is characterized by rapid growth and binding vines that choke the life from its victims. Yet from this bed of weeds, this cemetery of star thistle and Vinca, is born once every spring a magnificent meadow.

The brush is silent now, except for the subtle sounds of echoing crickets, chirping blue-jays, and croaking tree frogs. Not an emptiness so much as a grand vacancy-for there are a few limitations: the groan of some truck at the end of the block, the screech of a child which disturbs and unnerves like a bell, the ringing of a timer, little vexations which interrupt the experience of total transcendence, and cumulatively distort my ability to enter a complete eluding meditation. I lie on the grass under an oak tree admiring a cluster of dainty dandelions-clocks, blow balls- a weed never forgotten. In the I spot a doe grazing among the sagebrush, and blackberry bushes, foraging for dinner.

Looking up at me it hesitates, anticipating my reaction. I remain perched on the grass under the shade of the oak tree, still and unnerving, and return a genuine expression of to my host out of courtesy- a human gesture. it lowers its head and continues on its quest for acorns and seedlings.

A harvest moon emerges before the night is due, painted across the horizon with rose-colored sparks out past Penitencia Creek, past the free-ways and cul-de-sacs, past Cherry Flat Reservoir in California. Sitting there, pondering at this massive and wild array of dirt and grass and trees and field and sky, I feel an outlandish lust and attachment overtake me. I have a desire to know the secrets that are hidden within the remnants of this deprived space. I have come to know this place as a natural monument, a hidden oasis bearing life and harboring nostalgic treasures. Despite its rough exterior, the meadow stands as a natural monument of freedom and preservation.

When dusk begins to settle, the sky is shaded in orange and violet streaks. It outlines the walls of the northern Santa Cruz highlands before it completely vanishes from sight- eclipsed by a curtain of black peaks. The night creeps slowly and discreetly, before I know it I am standing in the dark, alone. In the backdrop, I hear a pygmy owl hooting faintly, signaling the nocturnal soldiers to come forth.

 

Retrieving my flashlight, I trace my footsteps back to the dirt path, wary of subtle movements in the grass or the sound of hissing. Ascending back down the worn dirt steps into the native woodland, I find the path that leads back to the main creek trail, winding back down the stream, and back to the pale stone bridge. Nearing the entrance, I hear the mighty howl of a coyote breaking against the red- luminescent haze of bittersweet moonlight; both beautiful and haunting...

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 S.N. Pimentelli. All rights reserved.

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